Interviews// DJ Hero 2: Jamie Jackson, Creative Director

Posted 21 Jun 2010 14:50 by
SPOnG: Have you released a new peripheral to account for the changes you've made to DJ Hero 2, or will we be using the original decks?

Jamie Jackson: You'll absolutely be using the same one as DJ Hero 1, yes. There was no reason behind keeping the original - we just chose not to bring a new peripheral out. We didn't feel the need to do that. We worked for many years ? before even getting involved with Activision ? on getting the peripheral right, and we're quite happy with it.

The thing is, we brought DJ Hero 1 to market, and we were going to spend a year to work on a new one ? do we want to try and do a whole new peripheral, add new gameplay around it, and end up doing way too much? It goes back to what I was talking about before with overwhelming the audience and ourselves.

Ultimately, we wanted to just polish the really cool stuff on DJ Hero 1 and just do those little things in the software that we didn't get into the first game but would have liked to.

SPOnG: And have you announced anything about the songs from DJ Hero 1 being compatible with DJ Hero 2? The only reason I ask is because you're changing the way voice works so how would that work out?

Jamie Jackson: We're not announcing our compatibility strategy just yet ? more from a DLC point of view rather than a songs point of view. But I can say now that you won't be able to import DJ Hero 1 songs into DJ Hero 2. But we're 'to be confirmed' on DLC.

SPOnG: For all of the game's impressive achievements and awards, DJ Hero was caught in a rather unfortunate position on release, where there was a magnificent deluge of music rhythm titles. Do you think that the release of DJ Hero was negatively impacted by that market situation? Did it sell less than you anticipated?

Jamie Jackson: Well, for me... You're right, a lot of titles came out, and at the same time there was a global economic crisis which screwed everything up. Doesn't matter if you were in games, or house prices or whatever, that had a big impact. So we were in a bit of a challenging situation anyway, because no consumer had much money to spend ? and those that did have money were saving it for Modern Warfare 2 (laughs)!

I actually don't think the music games were a competition for us, because we still ended up as the Number 1 New IP, and we still sold pretty damn well in the tough market. Forget the game competition, it was just... everyone had no cash last year. I'm pretty proud of what we've managed to do ? it was nice to get that one achievement, which wasn't a case of Activision trying to fish around to make it up, someone else came up with that.

So yeah, I was less worried about the competition, and I think the reviews we received ? by the way, thanks to you guys for giving us such praise, it means a lot to us ? that was enough to do it, for me. I was happy.

SPOnG: After last year's big climax of music game releases, things are slowing down a fair bit for the genre ? there's only one Guitar Hero game coming out this year, there's DJ Hero 2 and one or two others. Does the slowdown in the genre put more pressure on you guys to make DJ Hero 2 as outstanding as it can be?

Jamie Jackson: We make our own pressure. We'll always make a much better game than the last one. I'd hate my job if I just tried to make an average game just because I could. It's not what we're about, and I don't believe Activision would really put it out to market if we did do that.

I think, in terms of whether that genre is slowing down, it's hard for us to say whether that's a fact, based on where we are ? I think if we were still in a strong global market, and the games had dipped, you could say that. And if we were in a strong global market and the PlayStation 2 hadn't been wiped off the face of the planet, you could argue it.

But there are so many factors to consider before we can say the genre has definitely dropped off because of a lack of interest. Could it be that nobody wants to buy the games anymore, or is it that we've all got less money to spend so we're spending it a little bit wiser?

SPOnG: I meant in terms of actual releases, not to say that interest in the genre has dwindled or anything.

Jamie Jackson: Oh, OK ? I think the reason we've not seen so many titles is simply a reaction to the market saying that... maybe we don't need to make so many. I think we should focus on fewer, and better games. But we'd always be focused on making better games regardless.

SPOnG: You said in the presentation that there are various types of freestyling to score. How does that work ? what scores you the most?

Jamie Jackson: Basically we've got some code that runs underneath the track rhythm, so when you're doing freestyle Soundboard it will make a note how rhythmic you are compared to the rhythm patterns on the original track. The more rhythmic you are, the better you score.

From a Scratch point of view, it's the same sort of thing; you've got rhythm in there, but because you can release the Scratch and go again over vocals, the scoring is also about how well you can do that and whether you can perform at the right point in the vocal track.

Then on the Crossfade, if you remember the little visual markers that appear on either side ? basically the highway opens up and you get optional bars on either side of the Crossfader. They represent the start of the vocal and the start of the beat ? that very first word.

So if you're hitting those things and maybe playing it all the way through perfectly, you'll score higher because you're hitting the perfect point of the track. If you go halfway in, then you'll score less because you're going to be halfway through the word... 'Disco Stick' or something.

SPOnG: It's quite impressive how transferrable the experience is between real DJing and hopping on to DJ Hero. But the game entered the market last year at about 110. Obviously, with the market being the way it was, that price quickly dropped. Now that you're launching a game with the same peripheral, is there going to be a difficulty in finding that right price for the peripheral bundle?

Jamie Jackson: Well, the price is going to be lower, I can tell you that straight off. The price, yeah, it was... it was an interesting price (Laughter). And that, from a developer's point of view, is all I'll say.

But this time it'll be a lower price ? the one I know I can say is $99 in the US, right now I don't think we've confirmed a price for the UK so I don't want to give out false numbers and throw something out there. Having said that, it'll likely be around the same sort of number as that.
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